In the world of nutrition, vitamins are one of six essential nutrients. Without vitamins, our bodies just couldn’t function, our wounds wouldn’t heal, and our immune systems would completely shut down.
B12 is one of eight B vitamins that is water soluble. B12 is one of the most important and complex vitamins that our bodies require. Without enough B12 in our system, the consequences on our health can be devastating. We need it to make DNA, red blood cells, and even maintain our central nervous system.
Deficiencies can be as severe as irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system and may even impact fertility.
B12 is produced by some bacteria, yeast, and archaea and is found in untreated water and soil. While it is found in animal products, it cannot be manufactured by animals themselves. B12 is contained in animal products because animals live in unclean environments and store B12 in their bodies throughout their lives.
Before hygienic agricultural practices (such as washing produce) were introduced, people got their B12 from the bacteria in their water and food sources. But today, bacteria is killed in our food for our health and safety, so it is important to supplement for vitamin B12.
Some plant foods still contain B12, including certain mushrooms and seaweed and even fortified foods, but it isn’t a reliable source for your long-term health, and so a supplement is necessary for vegans and even non-vegans.
Supplements are great because they exist in their free, crystalline form that is highly absorbable. In animal products, the B12 is bound to protein, and that can be harder to absorb for some people.
A healthy range of B12 in your body is between 190 and 950 mg/mL. The easiest way to check the amount of B12 in your system is through a blood test.
Vegans are regularly reminded to keep up with their B12 levels, but those who are non-veg aren’t 100% protected, either. Anyone can develop a deficiency in B12, and it happens to be one of the most common deficiencies worldwide.
It’s not just about poor intake, it can also be due to poor absorption.
Even though B12 can be stored in the liver for five years, you can become deficient if your diet doesn’t include enough on a regular basis.
As a result, mild to severe symptoms can take years to develop. If you have high levels now, it’s not unlikely you can fall short in the future without regular supplementation.
The absorption of B12 is complex. Factors such as age, alcohol abuse, smoking, taking certain drugs, and health conditions which slow the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract have all been associated with B12 deficiencies.
However, some people, regardless of their age or diet, still observe low levels, to which professionals attribute to malabsorption.
If someone has a very low level of B12, they will be prescribed to take injections. Within 48 to 72 hours, their bodies will start making new red blood cells and continue to recover.
The dietary source of vitamin B12 largely consists of non-vegetarian foods. While the data for B12 deficiency in India is limited, it is believed that deficiencies are widespread in the population due to such a large number of people who follow a vegetarian diet. Treatment around the world can vary, too.
In the United States, the percentage of B12 deficiency is on the low end, with underlying causes associated with the malabsorption of oral supplementation. In India, where deficiencies are largely due to poor dietary intake, the Indian population could benefit from oral supplementation better than other forms of treatment, such as injections.
The scale of the problem isn’t exact. It is estimated that over 70% of adults and 80% of pre-school children have some form of deficiency.
As a result, many people suffer from anemia, fatigue, or even neurological illnesses. This is especially a concern for children, who need enough for the development of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and the brain. Exclusively breast-fed infants commonly experience deficiencies due to the lack of supplementation and breast-feeding mothers who are B12 deficient.
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